“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations. When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass from the hills is gathered in, the lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field.” – Proverbs 27: 23-26
As a country revisits its Vision and moves from the Vision to the Action, one must take stock of the status quo. We must understand our history, focus on the vision and devise strategies to follow that beacon which will illuminate the path on the journey towards the vision to which we aspire. We must know the condition of our flocks, so that when the hay is gathered in the lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field. We must diversify our products and services and move towards mobilising our knowledge resources and adding as much value locally to our indigenous resources. We must pursue economic development strategies which develop new enterprises – one business at a time.
The concept of “one business at a time” is pervasive on the Internet where it is included in the description of several important sustainable initiatives such as: Saving the Earth; Changing the World for People with Disabilities; Improving Regional Transportation; Improving the Human Condition; Fighting Poverty; Empowering a Country; Clearing the Foreign Debt of a Country; Growing a City: Building an Industry; Building Neighbourhoods; Building a Community; and Enhancing a Family’s Wealth. It is a theme which is central to our very existence and portrays the importance of entrepreneurs – Do not let them die!
In order to achieve sustainable economic growth we need to go a step further and reduce the failure rate of new enterprises. We need to engender an environment that generates one “successful” business at a time. Only then do we have a good chance of removing the threat to a decline in our continued socio-economic well being.
My experience in the field has been that there is no shortage of new ideas accompanied by passionate entrepreneurs. Even if there is a shortage of ideas, CBET has shown, time and time again across the Caribbean, that its High Impact Growth Strategy (HIGS) intervention is very efficient in creating new ideas from a “blank sheet of paper”. The HIGS can be designed to create new ideas which are either country specific or sector specific and is based on a brainstorming or interactive dialogue experience over a two day period among a diverse set of participants. Its ratio of new ideas per unit cost is very cost-effective. These new ideas can then be matched with entrepreneurs and developed.
It is necessary to make the appeal because the mortality rate of new enterprises, in the first year of operation, is very high, probably upwards of 80 to 90%. Many of these ideas have great potential – some of them even have the DNA of an elephant, which translates into high performance enterprises in the global marketplace. Others can be massaged into shape so that they exhibit these characteristics and yet others, even though not front runners on the global market scene, provide necessary support services to the economic gearing system which consists of many different sized wheels with interlocking cogs.
Entrepreneurs are at present given the short end of the stick not because the Vision of optimal business health care is not there, but because, somewhat like many human health care systems, this vision has not been efficiently converted into Action. What is required is first of all to set up a governance system which is free of unnecessary bureaucracy. (I notice that the recently appointed Minister of Trade, Industry and Commerce in Barbados is issuing positive soundings along these lines). This inevitably means that it must be driven by the private sector which understands the need for quick decision making in order to survive, in contrast to the public sector’s bureaucratic system where protection of the anatomy is the first order of business and salaries reach the employees’ bank accounts each month irrespective of the success of the enterprises which they are established to help. I must hastily add that, in the spirit of Smart Partnership, Government also has a supporting role to play in reducing this mortality rate.
The major therapies that are necessary, preferably in a preventive care mode, are to ensure that the entrepreneurs have ready access to shepherding expertise to introduce the appropriate marketing, operations, people and money management systems and that their access to capital is through appropriate financial instruments on a quick response basis. The shepherding input reduces the risk of business failure and may be seen as giving comfort to investors in what has been traditionally referred to as the high risk end of the business.
Making adjustments to the Common External Tariff should only be regarded as a short term measure. The only sustainable solution is to increase the size of the economy so that the burden of taxation is more widespread, efficiencies of economies of scale will kick in and the lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field.